SeattleClubhouse Top-50: 35-31

Each Monday for 10 weeks, SeattleClubhouse gives you an inside look at our take on the Top-50 prospects in the Seattle Mariners organization for 2014 as things currently sit, counting down from number 50 to number 1 in groups of five. Prospect rankings are complete with scouting notes, quotes from various sources and extended player info.

Here at SeattleClubhouse, our primary goal is to give our readers exclusive, in-depth information on Seattle Mariners players from the Foreign Rookie Leagues all the way to the Major Leagues. Looking beyond just the numbers and typical website resources and using input from our own respected baseball contacts to help develop our own unique ranking, we are aiming to give the readers rundowns on the names in the Seattle organization that are worth tracking for 2014, and maybe even pinning future MLB hopes on. Our personal taste plays into the determination of where the prospects land on the list; a combination of potential ceiling, likelihood of reaching that ceiling, the most probable outcome for the player and their proximity to cracking the 25-man roster all factor in heavily.

Each player covered in these posts is presented with a headshot (when available), their 2013 position, current actual age, handedness, listed height and weight as well as the last level which they played at in 2013. Discussion/updates, etc., to these lists and prospects will be posted in the subscriber section of the Forums. Please respect the confidential nature of the subscriber posts.

This is the fourth set of five of the best prospects in the organization for the Seattle Mariners. The first three sets, covering prospects number 50 through 36, can be found at the following links:

Now let's get to prospects number 35 through 31 in the Annual SeattleClubhouse Top-50 Countdown.

35. Stephen Kohlscheen - RHP, 25, 6-foot-6, 223 lbs, R/R, Jackson

2.51 7 28.2 30 8 5 28 1.221 9.4 0.3 1.6 8.8 5.60
3.98 31 108.2 106 48 44 102 1.380 8.8 0.8 3.6 8.4 2.32
3.47 42 70.0 77 27 36 91 1.614 9.9 1.0 4.6 11.7 2.53
2.30 41 66.2 47 17 25 85 1.080 6.3 0.8 3.4 11.5 3.40
3.28 121 274.0 260 100 110 306 1.350 8.5 0.8 3.6 10.1 2.78
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 12/20/2013.

Probably one of the lesser known bullpen prospects in the system, Kohlscheen has quietly put together a very nice resume in his four years in Seattle's system as a former 45th round pick. The tall right-hander was one of the players that I covered from just outside the Top-50 back in January, but he's safely in the rankings now. He spent the entire 2013 season in Double-A Jackson and had his best year to date, with a 2.30 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 85 strikeouts in 66 2/3 innings of work. The 65 swinging strikeouts that he got in 2013 were the most among all full-time M's relievers in the minor leagues and his 11.48 SO/9 was the 3rd best rate in the organization among pitchers with 60 or more innings.

After bouncing back and forth between starting and the bullpen for his first two seasons in the pros, Stephen has worked exclusively out of the bullpen for the past two years and has responded by accumulating an 11.59 SO/9 rate and posting a 2.90 ERA in 83 games and 136 2/3 innings. 2013 also was Kohlscheen's best year in terms of limiting hits (just 47 in 66 2/3) and in terms of command (just 25 walks). One scout who saw a lot of Jackson this past season brought him up to me on his own by saying, "That tall kid, Kohlscheen, he's really tough on right-handed hitters. The stuff can be so heavy and he pitches downhill all the time."

Kohlscheen, who is the son of the Phillies' Midwest crosschecker Brian Kohlscheen, uses his size well, pitching over the top and getting good angle on his 91-94mph fastball that can touch higher at times. He also uses a slider that is getting more consistent with his more frequent work out of the bullpen. The step forward this year in fastball command allowed him to work ahead of hitters more and sequence his pitches better. There were times over the last few seasons when Kohlscheen has looked like the most dominant reliever in the system. He should get challenged with an assignment to Triple-A Tacoma in 2014.

34. Jack Marder - 2B, 23, 5-foot-11, 185 lbs, R/R, Jackson

81 23 6 0 2 12 2 12 .324 .380 .493 .873 35
319 100 24 4 10 56 21 44 .360 .425 .583 1.008 162
315 60 10 2 4 22 24 59 .218 .298 .313 .610 86
715 183 40 6 16 90 47 115 .293 .364 .454 .818 283
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 12/20/2013.
After coming in at number 14 in our Top-50 countdown a year ago, Marder got challenged in Double-A and had a very hard time adjusting to the more advanced pitching and balancing his approach at the plate. The result was that Jack followed up an injury-shortened .360/.425/.583 season with High Desert in 2012 by hitting just .218/.298/.313 for Jackson in 2013. In about the same number of plate appearances Marder had 40 fewer hits, 22 fewer extra base hits and 15 more strikeouts. His walk rate did go up slightly and he played solid defense at second base and in the outfield, but overall the season was a lost one for him.

The right-handed hitter was sporting a .185/.279/.259 slash after 53 games before rebounding a bit and hitting .256/.319/.364 the rest of the way (43 games) while working through some nagging injuries. Those injuries are another story line for Marder. A former catcher who earned rave reviews for the way he controlled the game and led from that position, Marder was pulled from behind the plate after a string of concussions late in 2012. Even during the rough season, his hardnosed style of play was obvious. "His hustle and zeal to play the game hard and the right way is impressive," said Jackson Director of Media Relations Chris Harris. And even though his stats fell off from the year before, "he was the team's motor a lot of the season," said Harris.

Marder's style of play and aggressive approach to the game could have been what got him into trouble in Double-A. "I think it was a bit of a wakeup call for him," said M's Field Coordinator Jack Howell, continuing, "this year was really a battle for him. He has a nice short stroke, but finding that balance in his selective aggressiveness was hard for Jack this year." The right-handed hitting Marder attacks fastballs early in the count when he gets them, but pitchers figured him out pretty fast in the Southern League. He isn't physically big but Marder has quick, strong hands and plus bat speed with a linedrive, all fields approach. He has a good understanding of the strike zone when he keeps his naturally aggressive nature in check. Jack is more quick than fast, but he has the ability to steal bases and take the extra base regularly. He overall is a plus athlete with great baseball smarts, too, which helps everything play up.

I've heard that there is a possibility Marder gets back behind the plate some in 2014, but even if he doesn't, his profile is still someone that could turn into a contributor as a big leaguer down the line. Look for Marder to start back in Double-A Jackson to open 2014, working hard to build off of his second half success and balance his aggressiveness with pitcher's desire to expand the zone on him.

33. Ty Kelly - IF, 25, 6-foot, 185 lbs, B/R, Tacoma

Provided by View Original Table
Generated 12/20/2013.

Kelly came over to Seattle for outfielder Eric Thames on June 30th and immediately became one of the most popular names and the driving force on the Rainiers' roster. The switch-hitting infielder hit .320/.456/.406 for Tacoma and posted a massive 20.2% walk rate to end his 2013 campaign at a combined .298/.417/.392, boasting the 14th highest OBP of all full season minor league ballplayers. His career high 102 walks tied for the second best in MiLB and, paired with his 90 strikeouts, it marked the third straight season that the 25-year-old walked more than he struck out. The former 13th round pick by Baltimore hit .327/.425/.467 in 133 games across two levels in 2012, finally turning some heads of prospect watchers with his offensive abilities. He's played primarily third base and second base in his minor league career, but he's also dabbled in the outfield corners, as he did for Tacoma.

Kelly had multiple hits or multiple walks in 24 of his 54 games for the Rainiers and ended the season with five straight multi-hit games and seven straight games where he reached base multiple times. He hit three of his four home runs on the year for Tacoma, but his extra base power fell off quite a bit when he moved from the Double-A Eastern League to the PCL. Kelly also went just 3-for-10 in stolen base attempts for Tacoma and doesn't really have ideal speed for a player with his skill set. But his skill set -- a hitter who puts the bat on the ball and has phenomenal pitch recognition and plate discipline -- is a valuable one.

The switch-hitting Kelly has a little more power from the left side where he is a career .289/.400/.391 hitter (versus a .280/.356/.356 from the right side), but his approach and overall hitting profile are nearly identical from both sides. He sprays hits around the field and stays on top of the ball (51.7% GB the last three years), which is good considering his complete lack of power. On defense he really doesn't have a "best fit" as he lacks ideal range for the middle of the diamond and doesn't have the arm to be a plus defender in a corner. But his versatility and near guarantee that he'll always get a good pitch to hit could get him a look in the big leagues before long. He'll return to Tacoma in 2014.

32. Xavier Avery - OF, 23, 6-foot, 190 lbs, L/L, Tacoma

Provided by View Original Table
Generated 12/20/2013.

Acquired at the end of August from the Orioles in exchange for Mike Morse, Avery hit .500 (6 for 12) and had a homer and a steal in his brief time with Tacoma. A former 2nd round pick back in 2008 out of Cedar Grove high school in Georgia, where he was a highly recruited football player, Xavier played in 32 big league games for Baltimore in 2012, hitting .223/.305/.340 in a few different stints on the 25-man roster. He ranked 13th, 13th, 3rd, 9th and 7th on Baseball America's Top-30 prospect list for the Orioles over the last five years but the club was willing to part with him in the waiver deal while he was hitting just .237/.312/.312 in Triple-A Norfolk for them when he was dealt.

A fantastic athlete who was committed to Georgia as a running back when the Orioles signed him away back in 2008, Avery -- six seasons of pro ball later -- is still very raw as a baseball player. He drew a career best 55 walks in 2013 and has a walk rate of 10.7% the past two seasons, but he also struck out more than 100 times for the fifth straight season and has never struck out at less than a 21.0% rate, not what you want from a speedy player who lacks power. He's becoming a better, smarter baserunner, though, and increased his steal success rate again in 2013 (30 of 38).

The left-handed hitting Avery is a true center fielder, with plus-plus speed that helps him get to balls in both gaps, but his arm is just fringe average. He has good bat speed and can hit the ball hard the other way, but he doesn't have much power despite his athleticism and strength in his hands. As covered above, his plate discipline is a strength, although swing-and-miss is still a big part of his game, mostly on breaking balls, due to just average pitch recognition and an inconsistent approach. He figures to be Tacoma's every day center fielder, but he still has a ceiling of a starting big league center fielder if his tools can translate.

31. Forrest Snow - RHP, 24, 6-foot-6, 220 lbs, R/R, Tacoma

25 45.1 17 3 1 16 52 0.728 3.4 0.2 3.2 10.3 3.25
28 143.1 145 81 15 42 127 1.305 9.1 0.9 2.6 8.0 3.02
32 117.2 130 83 10 67 99 1.674 9.9 0.8 5.1 7.6 1.48
42 82.0 61 27 7 28 84 1.085 6.7 0.8 3.1 9.2 3.00
127 388.1 353 194 33 153 362 1.303 8.2 0.8 3.5 8.4 2.37
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 12/20/2013.

Snow, who has been in our Top-50 each of the last two seasons, had a big bounce back year in 2013, but unfortunately he is going to start the year on the suspended list as he failed a second drug test in September. That is too bad for the former 36th round pick out of the University of Washington as his stock was rebounding big time following a lackluster 2012. Back in the bullpen, where he impressed so much in the 2011 AFL, Snow posted a sub-3 ERA and again struck out more than a batter-per-inning while splitting the 2013 season between Jackson and Tacoma and pitching a career high 73 relief innings. His 25.1% strikeout rate was the best since his 2010 debut and the tall right-hander cut his BB/9 from 5.1 to 3.1 as his fastball command was again a strength.

The 1,092nd player taken in the 2010 draft, Snow was just an average, non-descript arm with control issues in college -- walking 57 and throwing 12 wild pitches for the Huskies in 46 outings (12 starts) -- but his stuff has taken a huge step forward as a pro as he's learned a few new pitches and gained a better understanding of himself as a pitcher. He closed the year out very strong for Tacoma, striking out 24 of the final 79 hitters he faced and not allowing a run in his final seven Triple-A appearances, including a dominant 5-inning spot start in which he struck out eight to close out the year.

Snow uses his size well, getting great downhill plane on his pitches and generating good arm-side run and sink on his heavy, 92-95 mph fastball. He also uses a slider, cutter and split-fingered fastball. All that out there, he hasn't been getting ground balls at quite as good of a rate since 2011, something that could go a long way in making him a legitimate big league option. Once he returns from his 50-game suspension, that area is the one that Snow should focus on with Tacoma to get himself a shot at a late-2014 or early 2015 shot to break in in the Seattle bullpen.

. . . . . . . . . . .

That concludes our look at prospects number 35 through 31. Check back next Monday as we close out the bottom half of the Top-50 in our annual countdown of the best prospects in the Seattle Mariners' system.

Looking for more Mariners news, articles and player interviews? Want to keep up with which prospects are hot and cold for the M's? "Like" SeattleClubhouse on Facebook and follow SeattleClubhouse site Editor Rick Randall on Twitter at @randallball.

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